Likud elects young MKs to top slots

Libyan-born Kahlon wins, followed by Erdan, Sa'ar, Eitan and Rivlin. (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The first names on the Likud's Knesset list will be party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, outgoing Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and MKs Moshe Kahlon, Gilad Erdan, Gideon Sa'ar and Michael Eitan, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, outgoing Health Minister Dan Naveh and MK Yuval Steinitz, according to results from a vote of central committee members at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds on Thursday. Kahlon, Erdan and Sa'ar were freshman MKs, whose victory was seen as a turn to the future for the Likud, Kahlon is a Libyan-born former aide to Uzi Landau. He was active in the Likud rebels, but was supported in the election by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's former camp in the Likud. He was active in the Knesset in advancing socioeconomic issues. The next names on the list are Education Minister Limor Livnat, former minister Natan Sharansky, Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz and MKs Haim Katz, Uzi Landau, Yuli Edelstein, Danny Benlulu, Lea Nass and Nomi Blumenthal. Sharansky hailed the vote, saying that it was historic that immigrants were elected democratically on a list of a large party without anyone reserving slots for them. The Likud's 26 current MKs plus Sharansky were only eligible for the top 18 slots on the list. MKs not elected include former minister David Levy and deputy agriculture minister Gila Gamliel. Levy is leaving the Knesset, where he has served since the 7th Knesset, which started in 1969. Netanyahu declared the results as proof that the Likud's renaissance was under way and suggested that the party would immediately rise in the polls. He thanked the central committee members for selecting a list with a wide variety of candidates. "There's no democracy in Kadima but we have proven that there is democracy in the Likud," he said. "We elected the best team possible, who will lead the Likud to victory." But a Kadima spokesman attacked the party for "electing a list full of disengagement opponents and extremists." Likud rebel MKs elected included Blumenthal, Ratzon, Landau, Kahlon, Edelstein and Yatom. A Kadima spokesman called the Likud list "gray, and lacking new faces. The backbenchers and extremists have been promoted overnight, embarrassing the Likud." A Labor campaign spokesman said the list was "too right wing - economically and diplomatically," and said the Likud would end up being a satellite of Kadima. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said the Likud elected "a white list with a few black spots." Besides Kahlon, there are no Sephardi candidates in the Likud's top 18. Shalom, was guaranteed second place in the Likud line-up, is also from a Sephardi background. From 19 on, the next 15 slots were reserved for newcomers to the Knesset from various sectors. The 19th slot, reserved for a candidate from Tel Aviv, was won by former Tel Aviv deputy mayor Eitan Sulami. The 20th spot, reserved for a candidate from the coastal plain, was won by Gabi Avital. The 21st slot, representing the Dan region, went to Kobi Ben-Gur, a former CEO of Pelephone. Dudu Meimon, representing the Sharon region, won the 22nd slot. The 23rd slot, reserved for a minority, went to Sammy Kaidba. The 24th seat, reserved for a woman who had never served in the Knesset, was won by former lobbyist Keren Barak. Danny Danon won the 25th seat, reserved for a Moshav resident. Representing the north, Tzion Pinyan won the 26th seat. David Even Tzur won the 27th seat, representing the Haifa region. Andrei Uzan, representing the Negev, won the 28th seat. The 29th seat, reserved for a female new to the Knesset, was won by Molly Pintel. Former Finance Ministry Director-General Shmuel Slavin won the 30th slot, representing Jerusalem. Eliezer Hisdai, mayor of the Alfei Menashe regional council and representing Judea and Samaria, won the 31st seat. Ehud Yatom and Michael Ratzon won the 32nd and 33rd seats, respectively. A surprising 91 percent of the 3,012-member Likud central committee came out to vote despite a thunderstorm with rain that drenched the candidates, who stood outside the building where the voting was held shaking hands with potential voters. While party members waited for results of the Likud primaries inside a crowded and smoke-filled hangar, casually stuffing their faces with hot dogs that they paid for themselves, former model and current MK Pnina Rosenblum stood ankle deep in mud in a last-minute attempt at garnering support. In keeping with the surreal nature of the event, the soggy path leading to the ballot boxes was bustling with candidates and passionate supporters eagerly shouting out numbers to passing voters. Paraphernalia such as umbrellas and raincoats emblazoned with candidates' names were also hurriedly being dispatched in an attempt at 11th-hour persuasion. Back inside, followers wearing color-coded sweaters sat around tables laden with pamphlets extolling the virtues of their chosen candidates and sang party songs. Yet despite being festooned with Israeli flags and Likud posters, one party member noted that the place felt "more like a meat market than a political gathering." Natanel Cohen, who was rooting for Limor Livnat, observed that the clammy claustrophobia and evident disorganization contrasted strongly with the previous event three years ago. "Back then, the party was bigger, there was excellent music and the food was free," he sighed longingly. Mitchell Barak, a New York native who ran for the immigrant slot, commented that "no one seems to know what is going on and there are deals being made and broken the whole time." Ahead of the vote, various groups in the central committee convened to decide whom to support and to draft hit lists of MKs they wanted to see leave the Knesset. Dozens of loyalists of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met at Cafe Bangkok in Petah Tikva and decided to work against Likud rebel MKs like Gamliel, Ratzon, Levy and Ayoub Kara.